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Cyprus News Agency: News in English (AM), 97-11-17
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From: The Cyprus News Agency at <http://www.cyna.org.cy>
 Top UN Cyprus envoy sees opportunitiesby James Delihas
New York, Nov 17 (CNA)-- The UN's top envoy for Cyprus believes efforts to reach a settlement in Cyprus must continue with a view to resuming negotiations after February's presidential elections on the island, as the short term objective.
In an interview with CNA ahead of his visit to Cyprus, Diego Cordovez, UN Secretary-General's special advisor on Cyprus, expressed disappointment that neither the Greek nor the Turkish Cypriot side appears ready to submit "legal instruments" to facilitate the new constitutional structures of a federal Cyprus.
He also sees the Cyprus question as a "unique situation, which poses a double challenge" and admits that neither side has yet "convinced the other that they want a settlement", even though both feel that "something is pending."
Speaking on the eve of his arrival, Cordovez evaluated the current impasse in the Cyprus peace talks as "bleak and marked by tensions and distrust", following the breakdown of UN-sponsored talks in the summer and the deterioration of Greco-Turkish relations, in addition to the escalating war of words the Turkish Cypriot side and Turkey have engaged in.
The UN official seems to regard Turkey's threats to annex Cyprus' Turkish-occupied areas and prevent the deployment of Russian missiles in Cyprus as much rhetorical posturing as actual threats, engaged in "precisely because there is a conflict and no solution yet."
Cordovez sees the situation in Cyprus as "unique, quite complex and difficult, and double challenging" which cannot be compared with any other situation.
Commenting on the dynamics of the relationship between President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash that he felt was impeding progress, Cordovez believes that neither side has yet "convinced the other they want a settlement."
When genuine interest in a solution does exist, he points out, "that is something the parties can see in each other but we haven't reached that point."
He said the degree of "distrust (between the two communities) is quite similar and very high and that is bad as a starting point for a negotiation", but remains convinced that essentially both sides did want a settlement.
Assessing the outcome of the UN talks he chaired in the summer, Cordovez said he came away with the "impression that this was the beginning of another new and real effort," a view not prevailing in Nicosia.
The drafting of legal instruments by the two sides, he explained, would provide a framework for the "sustained process of negotiations" that would follow, leading eventually to "new constitutional and institutional structures" that would enable the two communities to live together in peace.
"That scenario is behind schedule," he admitted, noting that the UN Secretary-General would like to forge a single draft text out of the proposals submitted by the two sides.
In the process of give and take of ensuing negotiations, both sides have to come to grips with the "kind of trade-offs necessary for an agreement," he remarked.
He said neither side had given any indication that it would submit these legal instruments and added "things have been rather bleak."
On a more optimistic note, Cordovez recalled that "there have been many instances in history where bleak prospects turned out to be the starting point of a movement forward."
History, he stressed, was "replete with instances of extreme situations that were eventually turned around."
"Something is pending, both sides feel that something is pending," he added.
Replying to questions, Cordovez said he is not in the habit of paying much attention to what is said "outside the negotiating arena as the moment there is a discernible solution, all that changes."
"I have been in this business too long not to know that people's positions can change," the seasoned diplomat said, who was involved in negotiating process in the Dominican Republic, Bangladesh, the US hostage crisis in Iran, disputes between Malta and Libya as well the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan.
The UN envoy arrives in Cyprus Tuesday night and is scheduled to have talks with President Clerides and Denktash on Wednesday.
He will also familiarise himself with the UN peace-keeping force in Cyprus and meet party leaders from both sides of the divide, before leaving on Friday.
This is his first visit to the island since his appointment earlier this year.
Turkish troops have been occupying 37 per cent of Cyprus territory since 1974, in violation of repeated UN resolutions calling for their withdrawal.
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 Environmentalists protest British Army exercisesNicosia, Nov 17 (CNA) -- The British Forces in Cyprus today started military exercises on the environmentally fragile Akamas peninsula, in the western tip of the island, amid strong protests by local environmentalists.
A press release issued Monday by the British Forces said 90 Episkopi- based soldiers would have low level training there between November 17 and 21, using hand-held infantry-type weapons and, at times, live ammunition.
"Such weapons present almost no hazard to the environment," it said, adding that "stringent regulations will be enforced to preserve and protect the landscape."
Local environmental groups have since yesterday gathered in the area protesting the military exercises in Akamas, one of the few regions in the Mediterranean where the green and loggerhead turtles hatch their eggs.
Nine environmentalists, including MP Marios Matsakis, have entered the exercises area and a search is being carried out to find them and drive them out.
A group of environmentalists tried in two occasions to stop the 20 military vehicles carrying British soldiers to Akamas.
They were prevented by the Cyprus police but finally managed to hand the officer in charge a petition calling for the immediate end to these exercises.
"Discussion continues between the Republic of Cyprus government and British authorities regarding the possibility of an alternate training area to replace the Akamas," the Forces press release said.
Britain has retained two sovereign Bases in Cyprus since 1960, when it granted the island its independence from colonial rule. British Forces exercise in designated areas.
"The 1960 Treaty of Establishment provides for limited, carefully conducted British Army training in the Akamas peninsula," the announcement said.
It added that whereas the agreement provides for 70 days' training a year, it generally takes place for as little as 35 days or less "on a small, remote six-square-kilometre area of the most rugged and inaccessible part of the peninsula."
The island's House of Representatives last week reiterated its calls for an end to British Forces exercises in Akamas.
In a resolution approved unanimously, the House called "on the government of the Republic to stop giving its approval to exercises in this region" and to "take all necessary measures."
It has also authorised House President, Spyros Kyprianou, to make a recourse on the issue to the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the House of Commons.
Bases spokesman Mervyn Wynne Jones said "British Forces in Cyprus are not insensitive to the concerns expressed about training on the Akamas."
Noting that military training can be an emotive issue, Jones said "it is arguable that tourism, hunting, and industry present a far greater threat to the environment than the limited and carefully regulated training taking place for just a few days each year."
The House had expressed "serious concern" with the environmental damage by the military exercises, adding that if these continue the unique Akamas' flora and fauna would be completely destroyed.
It also described Britain's right to use the area for military purposes as a colonial legacy.
An underwater footage filmed by environmentalists off the Akamas coast last week revealed some bombshells on the sea bed that never exploded.
In a letter Saturday addressed to British Premier Tony Blair and Defence Secretary John Reid, environmentalists and anti-Bases activists had called for an immediate end to British exercises.
The letter noted the six-day exercises would take place in an "ecologically sensitive" area which is "prone to destruction, should a fire be caused by the army."
For more than eight years local environmentalists and Greenpeace Mediterranean have been supporting that the Akamas peninsula should become a national park.
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